NFL to Halt Blackout Rule for 2015 Games (Report)

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The FCC voted last fall to end TV sports blackouts, but the league still had the right to negotiate its own blackout deals.

The National Football League is going to suspend its policy of blacking out games that are not sold out for the 2015 season, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal.

The FCC had voted in October 2014 to end sports blackouts on television, but that rule did not prohibit the NFL and other leagues from making private contractual arrangements that would have the same effect — to keep games off free TV in cities where the stadium is not sold out.

The NFL fought the FCC action last fall on the basis that it still needed to protect the home game attendance for its teams. The league noted at the time it had made an effort to minimize blackouts, noting it was still the only league left that televised every game on free over-the-air TV.

In the past the ticket sales were a big factor in the economics of football, but that changed as the value of TV contracts soared. Then it was about having a full stadium so that people could see how popular the game was and how in-demand tickets remained.

The FCC said that was all outdated. The league did not agree but had no choice but to live with the ruling.

It is unclear if the NFL tried to keep the rule in place by making private deals with cable and satellite companies and others; but now it appears they have decided not to even try to keep the blackout policy intact.

There was no immediate response to a request for comment from the NFL.